A series of storms that lasted through much of the past week inundated San Juan County in near record amounts of snow and rain. The result was several days of clogged or stopped transportation routes, closed schools and businesses, a number of collapsed buildings, and an exhausted group of area residents tired of shoveling snow.
Old Timers say it has been decades since San Juan had so many winter storms in such a short period of time. Snow and water content on the Abajo Mountains increased from below normal to significantly above normal levels in less than a week. Monticello, Blanding, and most other towns in the County have not had so much snow on the ground in years.
On Monday morning, January 17, the area was blessed with blue skies and warm temperatures. Snow at the Camp Jackson Snotel measuring station on the Blue Mountains reported 25” of snow with a water content of 6.5”.
It began to snow about dark on Monday. It snowed all night. Snow at Camp Jackson rose to 33” of snow containing 7.2” of water in the first storm.
Tuesday was a warm, sunny day as residents dug out. It snowed again most of Tuesday night. When it cleared on Wednesday, the snow totals were 41” of snow with 8.1” of water at Camp Jackson. Heavy equipment operators spent the day repeating Monday’s drill.
It snowed all night on Wednsday, January 20. By 6 a.m. on Thursday, a reverse 911 call was made to telephones in northern San Juan County to notify residents that schools was cancelled in Blanding, Monticello and La Sal. The snow continued unabated all day Thursday and on into the night. As midnight approached on Thursday, 25” of new snow had fallen on the mountain. In a single 24-hour period, 3.5” of water had been added to the snowpack at Camp Jackson, with almost that amount added in Monticello.
By afternoon on Thursday, the word went out that all schools in San Juan County would be closed on Friday. Old timers say it is the first time since the late 1960s that school was canceled for more than one day in northern San Juan County.
US Highway 191 was closed between Moab and Monticello on Thursday night and the Senior Center in Monticello was opened to house stranded travelers.
A number of buildings collapsed under the weight of the drifting snow, including storage buildings, commercial structures and detached garages. Many area residents spent the time shoveling the snow off of their roofs.
Storms continued intermittently on Friday and Saturday. When skies finally cleared on Sunday, Monticello was buried under an estimated three feet of snow. The reporting station at the Monticello Port of Entry was not read Friday, Saturday or Sunday, ruling out a definitive measure for the storm.
Blanding took the brunt of the storm, which approached the area from the south. With heavy rain falling on Friday, Blanding received nearly 4 inches of water during the for-day course of the storm.
Snow and water content totals at Camp Jackson reached 71 inches of snow, which holds 13.6 inches of water. At the current time, the amount of water in the snow pack at Camp Jackson is higher than in 21 of the past 24 years. The amount of water in the mountain snow pack more than doubled during the series of storms.
State and County snow removal crews were exhausted after a week of non-stop work trying to keep roads open. Budgets for snow removal are strained, with half of the winter still to go.
On a brighter note, area farmers, ranchers and winter sports enthusiasts are delighted. If the County gets normal precipitation during the remainder of the winter, 2010 could well be one of the best water years since records have been kept.